Wake up people, go explore the world! There are so many unexpected wonders awaiting your senses.
When I think back to the weeks I spent backpacking through Nicaragua, I smell the freshly baked focaccia bread in Granada, I feel the waves that jostled us for seven hours across the largest lake in Central America and I see the active volcanoes that towered above me as I floated in the waters surrounding Ometepe Island.
Being in Nicaragua was spectacular, but getting there was a bit of a rough. The plan was to cross from Costa Rica to Nicaragua along the Rio Frio, from the Costa Rican town of Los Chiles. There is onepublic water taxi that crosses the river into Nicaragua twice a week and only charges $7.00. We were in the right city, on the right day of the week, but after asking 10 different locals we still couldn’t pin down the actual time of the ferry’s departure. Nonetheless, we needed to get to San Carlos, Nicaragua before 5:00pm to catch our next boat to the volcano covered island, Isla Ometepe. We weren’t taking any chances. We paid a few sketchy fees, obtained private boat quotes that ranged from $130 – $15 per person and hopped on the cheapest ride. Crossing into Nicaragua was stunning. Crocodiles lined the banks of the river, tropical birds swooped in front of us to catch fish and we waved to all of the locals who lived along the river. Once in San Carlos, we paid a mysterious $12 fee (that had to be paid in dollars) and finally got our passports stamped – welcome to Nicaragua.
Since we arrived in San Carlos earlier than expected, we had six hours to kill before our next boat departed. We exchanged our Colones for Cordobas, witnessed a motorcycle accident, drank 60 cent beers and had our first taste of Nico food. All in all, we made the best of being stuck in a transit city and concluded that Nico’s (Nicaraguan’s) cook much better than Tico’s (Costa Rican’s) and our dollar is worth a whole lot more in Nicaragua.
Our destination for the night was the Isla Ometepe, an island in the center of Lake Nicaragua that is home to two volcanoes. Lake Nicaragua is believed to have been created when a volcanic eruption formed a land barrier that separated the lake from the ocean. The ocean fish found themselves trapped as the salt water slowly turned fresh. Thanks to evolution, Lake Nicaragua is the only freshwater lake containing oceanic animal life – sharks, swordfish, and tarpon.
We boarded the boat and tried to get comfortable, we had a seven hour trip ahead of us and the sun was setting quickly. The first couple of hours were ideal, we watched the sun dip beneath the horizon from comfortable beach chairs with drinks in our hand. But, after the dark set in, the hours seemed to drag on. We reached the island just past midnight and had a quick sleep at a nearby hostel.
The next day we moved to Little Morgan’s, a hostel that came with rave recommendations from other travelers. Little Morgan’s was great, for one night. Set on the shores of the lake, it was a rustic jungle getaway that attracted travelers from around the world, ready to party. And party we did; after night one, Brendan had suffered a concussion, Steven was bleeding from neck to hip and Alexa had lost a shoe – which we later found was being used as a shot glass in the bar. Gross.
We somehow managed to survive another two nights at Little Morgan’s and continued to explore the island. We rented bikes and cruised to the nearby freshwater springs, where we poured rum into our coconuts and sipped the afternoon away under breezy palm trees. Our bikes took us along beautiful beaches where we jumped into the lake and swam beneath the shadows of two volcanoes.
After three days of dirt floors, grungy bathrooms and roaming pigs, we were ready for an escape from Little Morgan’s. We hopped on yet another boat and set our sites for Granada. Unlike the Pirate, Captain Morgan, who sacked the city and all of it’s gold multiple times in the 17th century, we were welcomed into lovely Granada with open arms. The colonial city is quite a shock for two sisters living in the jungle. We were suddenly surrounded by restaurants, cafes, shops and bustling street markets. Our plan was to rest up and rejuvenate in Granada for a day or two and then head to the beach, but the allure of city life captivated us for almost a week.
The streets of Granda are filled with colorful architecture and it remains one of the most beautiful cities in Central America. It’s history dates back to 1524, making it the oldest Spanish settlement in the Americas. We spent our days walking through historical neighborhoods, savoring the flavors of Nicaragua, learning to roll our own cigars and relaxing at a full service spa that set us back a mere $25. It was a tough decision to leave, but the beaches of San Juan Del Sur beckoned us south.
San Juan Del Sur is known as a popular surf destination for those adventurous enough to discover it’s hidden breaks. We weren’t quite feeling the adventurous spirit and opted for relaxing on the beach, swimming in the surprisingly cold ocean and hiking to the largest Jesus in Central America.
One rather horrific border crossing later, we found ourselves safe and sound in Costa Rica. Another fourteen-hour bus ride later, we found ourselves back in the serenity of Fila Tigre. As they say, you only hate the road when you’re missing home, and after the past few weeks of travel we hated the road – and bus seats. It felt like heaven to be back in our jungle; swatting the same ole mosquitos and cursing the now beloved toads that croak the night away outside our front door.